Where you were born, every school you went to, what exams you took, what collage, what university, every house you have lived in, your parents, your siblings, your childhood, your children, what jobs you have had, your bank balance, who you owe money to, who your friends are, what pets you have, who comes to your house, what is your religion, your views on diversity and culture. What does all this have to do with fostering? This is you plus more, so be prepared to rediscover yourself and relive memories.
I would like to take you through a quick guide of the assessment to become a foster carer and how it was for my wife and I.
You will normally have about twelve visits from the Form F Assessor over six months. “Six months?” I hear you say, “That’s a long time!” Believe me, that’s just what Ruth and I thought. But the time goes very quickly with all the homework you will have (yes you heard me right, homework) and it has been one of the most incredible journeys Ruth and I have taken.
The first visit was just a formal chat to see if we wanted to become foster carers. This visit lasted 2 hours, just talking about what Ruth and I were expecting from becoming foster carers and what the Compass would be expecting of us. At the end of the meeting we were told that we would be recommended for assessment to become foster carers. First meeting over and our homework had to be completed before the next visit; we were to write down our family trees as far as we could remember. This was hard but interesting at the same time. Having just spent 2 hours talking about our families and where we are from it was still fresh in our minds. Writing your family tree can be quite thought provoking, remembering family that has passed and all the happy memories. We took about one and a half weeks to write our family tree`s – our next visit was made for two weeks’ time.
While waiting for the second visit, Ruth and I talked about how we felt after the first visit. We found this a good idea as we could bounce ideas for the next visit off each other. The next date for the visit came around fast and in this visit we were to find out just how intrusive the assessment was going to be. It will take you right back to your childhood and how things were for you as a child. You will talk about how your parents were and how you get on with your siblings. This was hard at first and I thought “what has my childhood got to do with me as an adult or fostering children?” Then I gave it some thought and yes, it all made sense, for how I was brought up would play a big part in how I would foster.
All your own children will be interviewed during the assessment if they are old enough and asked their opinions on you fostering and how they feel about you looking after other children, their upbringing and how they felt that they were treated. Again this felt hard, this was only the second visit and I was thinking to myself “this is not how I thought it would be”. Having said this I was still enjoying the experience and as fostering was what we wanted to do, whatever it takes. Our next bit of homework was to draw a plan of our home and mark where we would use as fire exits, keeping in mind that a fire downstairs might make the normal exits unusable.
During the assessment you will have to attend a course called Skills to Foster. This course takes place over three days, usually spread across a week or two. Both you and your partner will be required to attend this course. With the assessment you will be asked to supply three references from friends who will be interviewed – you can see now what I mean that the assessment being intrusive, although the assessor makes you feel at ease. For our next bit of homework, Ruth had to write a small essay about herself and I had to do the same. The reason for this is that during the assessment you will be interviewed on your own and talk about what you had written about yourself.
Now I don’t know about you, but I feel uncomfortable talking about myself, let alone writing about myself. The interview on your own will only take about an hour and is normally done with both of you doing your interview in the same appointment. By now if you have continued with the assessment you will have been given a date for your panel. This is when the nerves start to set in, but there is no need to worry, when you get to panel you will only be asked questions about what you have already discussed during the assessment. You will now be coming to the end of your six months!
From now until your panel you will be talking about safety around your home. Be prepared, you may have to make changes to your home, for what we take for granted as being safe will not always be the case for a foster child. These changes are nothing major, just things like having a stair gate or making sure your garden is secure and safe. When all this has been covered the assessment will be over and it is just a waiting game until your panel date arrives.
So, your date has arrived and you are going to panel. Please don’t worry as like I have said, you will only be asked questions about what you have talked about during your assessment. Your assessor will be asked to go into the room first – don’t worry, this is normal. Next, you and your assessor will be asked to meet the panel. The next twenty minutes or so are nerve wracking while you wait outside for the panel to have a chat. You will be told if you’re going to be recommended to foster and that you will get a letter. Again, don’t worry this is normal. You won’t be given the decision on the same day; it will take at least one week before you get the letter saying you are now foster carers! I can’t say explain just how proud Ruth and I felt at that moment.
We have now been fostering for 11 years and enjoyed every minute of it. Some say having gone through an assessment once they would never do it again – Ruth and I have been through the assessments three times so it really can’t be that bad! If you change agencies you will have to do the assessment (or part of it) all over again depending on what your new agency is asking for.
I hope you have not been put off by this article, I would say that if you have thought about fostering then go for it – we have never looked back!
Thank you for reading,
Ruth and Brian Pattimore